Handle Me With Care

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Hong Kong International Film Festival

HONG KONG -- "Handle Me Wwith Care" (the Thai title, "Kod," means hug) has an attention-grabbing idea: the quest for love and self-acceptance of a man with three arms. But in dramatizing his dilemma, whether to guard his personal uniqueness or blend in with the crowd, the film founders with a similar hesitation about its own identity.

Handsomely produced by Thai movie giant GTH with two youthful, dishy leads supported by spirited cameos, the film won't be a total flop in limited theatrical release in Asian markets. And director Kongdej Jaturanrasamee's reputation as a scriptwriter for well-known commercial hits -- "Tom Yum Goong" and "Me Myself" as well as his own, mellifluous "Midnight My Love" -- might prompt Asian film buffs to check out his new movie at festivals outside Asia.

Jaturanrasamee is of competing minds about his own film: He alternates the conventions of slapstick comedy, candy-floss romance, magical fantasy and offbeat road movie. But he doesn't handle any of these genre variations with enough care, leaving each dangling like the extra arm of his protagonist. A faintly haunting, soulful mood emerges toward the end, but then the plot reverts to a jingoistic conclusion.

The most startling visual might be the "arm double," provided by a real person rather than CGI.

The film opens with a wacky narrative sequence: a man jogs along a breathtakingly shot lake, only to return home to meet an accidental death. We realize in retrospect that he is the tailor Tawee, an absent but important factor in the life of Kwan (Kiatkamol Lata), an ordinary postal clerk were it not for his extra limb.

The first half-hour, which brings to life the parochial setting of a central-northern Thai town, keeps the mood buoyant with cheeky skits that encapsulate Kwan's predicament: He performs astonishing feats of multitasking and is valued at work for his speed in sorting mail. However, he is unlucky in love; no girl can stand the ordeal of dating a freak. Tawee's death, which means no more three-sleeved shirts for Kwan, prompts him to head to Bangkok for amputation surgery.

Kwan hitches a ride with bus-driver Lorlee, a scamp with a trail of gambling debts. En route, they rescue the busty Na (Supaksorn Chaimongkol) from attempted rape by a policeman. When Lorlee's creditors catch up with him, Kwan and Na continue their journey and fall in love to the tacky pop song of her mobile ringtone.

The narrative stalls as the film gets sidetracked by incidents (like human trafficking) and allegories (the legend of a tree that wishes it were special) that simply reiterate the themes of ostracism and love-longing. The arm stunts lose their novelty, and only Kwan's final decision achieves any emotional effect.

HANDLE ME WITH CARE
GMM Thai Hub
Sales agent: GTH
Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Kongdej Jaturanrasamee
Producers: Jira Maligool, Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, Cherchonnee Soonthornsaratul, Chanajai Thonsaithong
Director of photography: Naruphol Chokanapitak
Music: Hualumpong Riddim
Editor: Patthamanadda Yukol
Cast:
Kwan: Kiatkamol Lata
Na: Supaksorn Chaimongkol
Running time -- 119 minutes
No MPAA rating
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